We're just in time for Halloween, and I'm baaack! by D.A. WATT
This past week, I found myself scurrying along the side yard fence to enter my back door. I didn’t want to chance another run in with an enormous, icky spider’s web hosted by a giant cross orb weaver, that was commandeering my entire front entry.
That’s when I realized something: I’m tired of being a wimp.
So I sat down on my couch with a gallon of pistachio walnut ice cream (nonfat) and did some deep, heavy thinking, just like FDR, the US President who said this.
That's when I decided: FEAR NO MORE. I wrote it on a Post-It note, along with:
- Rise above my fear of disappointing others.
- Say, “No, I can’t,” at least once this week.
- Be bold: Emergency Response Team training tomorrow, great time to act fearlessly.
- Don’t allow any webs, real or imagined, to get in your way.
- Failure is not an option. Don’t give up, especially on your writing.
- To be successful as a writer you must give up your alter-ego, "Super Me."
I stuck the note on my bathroom mirror and exhaled. Losing my fear was like tossing a hundred pound weight off my back. And once you do the initial thrust, gravity takes over. I was floating on my new found courage. Until the next night, when I was chosen to lead a mock triage situation for my Emergency Response Team.
I had 30 seconds or less to assess if someone was dead, needed immediate attention, or if they had non-life threatening injuries. Apparently, they’d brought in an Emmy award winning make-up crew. My first victim looked like he’d been tossed off a five story building; gashes three inches deep, right foot twisted backwards, blood oozing from his nostrils. How does someone fake all that? I mean, what did he do, shove a bottle of ketchup up his nose? And that backwards foot?
Anyway, I felt the old familiar fear jellying my insides, so I remembered my FEAR NO MORE list. Just then, the guy in charge jammed a stopwatch in my face. Twenty-two seconds and I still hadn’t made an assessment.
By now, the zombie in front of me was laying on the ground, convulsing. I was freaked out by all the blood and that darn, twisted foot. The head honcho demanded action, so I acted. I pushed out my chest, clenched invisible balls of courage and said, “Yes, I can.” The floodgates opened and I felt fearless. I was so proud of myself, and I think he was too, because he told me to go home early.
I smiled the entire drive home, pleased that I could cross a few things off my list. But I wasn’t done yet.
Don’t allow any webs to get in your way. It was night by the time I arrived home. As I approached the darkened entryway, I thought of number 3 on my list. I braced myself and bolted through a giant cross orb weaver’s web. Thin, spidery threads stuck to my cheeks over my lips.
No turning back, I was almost through. I blew out a breath and leaned into it. But the spider wasn’t about to let me cross enemy lines without a fight. She plopped on the back of my neck, completed a few push ups at the base of my skull, and scurried overhead. I threw open the front door, dropped, rolled, and gagged. But I’d made it! Unharmed and unbitten. Valiant, I quickly crossed number 3 from my list, but I still needed to tackle 4 and 5.
In her blog last week about fear, Laura wrote that she fears her time is running out on becoming published (even though she's at the tipping point) while Fae wrote about battling perfection (her near-perfect world building skills are stellar).
I, on the other hand, own both sides of the same coin. Either way, I lose. My critique group is writing while I’m jamming my scribe light under a laundry basket, moonlighting as Super Me. I've been allowing urgent demands and pressing needs to wring me so dry there’s no juice left. No V8 to create. We all have promises to keep and responsibilities outside of our craft. That won’t change, so what can I do differently?
I can drool and read Laird Hamilton’s book, Force of Nature, Mind, Body, Soul, and, of Course Surfing.
Concerning family matters, he says, “I brought my kids into the world—they didn’t ask to be born—but it seems to me to be wrong if I stop being myself because of them. It’d almost be cheating them.”
Cheating them, huh? Something to ponder: is Laird courageous or selfish, a little of both?
Maybe that’s what’s needed for anyone to be awesome in something.
I’ve a hunch my success as writer won’t happen until Super Me dies off and Especially Ordinary Me takes over. That is, as long as my other alter ego, Not Good Enough, doesn’t crawl out of the gutter to brag about how she can’t write; not because she’s saving the world, but because she stinks.
You see, Not Good Enough is the other side of this coin called fear, failure. Seems to me, if Especially Ordinary Me wants to write, she’s going to have to perform triage, and tag Super Me and Not Good Enough as dead.
Does anyone else have these sort of characters populating their heads?
The first step to change is to admit you have a problem.
Ok, I have a writing problem based on both types of fear. It’s the little things that empower, like creating a daily writing ritual of preparation to begin, like taking a walk, as Beethoven did.
- George Washington rode his horse before sunrise.
- Laird Hamilton plays the same song over and over a hundred times or so before he surfs a big monster wave. The song plays in his head, slowing things down as he tackles nature.
- The famous dancer and choreographer, Twyla Tharp, still creating and touring in her seventies, wrote Creative Habit, Learn It and Use it For Life. For her, it’s taking a cab in Manhattan at 5:30 am to hit the gym. Regardless of lousy weather or how tired she feels, once inside the cab, she’s committed. A short clip of Twyla’s skills; listen and enjoy a United Nations of beautiful bodies! Here.
- Since I’m an outdoorsy type, I’m going to try writing outside.
Maybe a slow burning fear motivates you, like it does Laura. Fae’s perfection does create amazing worlds. She just needs to know when to stop being perfect. As for you, it’s your call, adjust the recommended dosage of fear needed to keep your writing going.
I get a kick out of Merlin Man’s blog. He talks about fear and creativity, even a posting titled Scared Shitless, but I really like his link from the podcast of Steve Jobs speech at Stanford’s 2005 commencement. A toast to your awesomeness. Read it Here. Or watch it Here.
If you still want my two cents worth, I have a coin for you. And if you want to amp up your writing, check out Laird Hamilton surfing Jaws. Go on, ride your own wave of awesomeness.
How are you going to triage fear?
Name the excuses, the roles you play, the distractions you keep. Assess your situation and be truthful. What’s really going on to keep you from writing your opus?